DALLAS - Four cheerleaders from Dallas ISD’s Sunset High School made the made the All-American National Cheerleading Association team despite the challenges of COVID-19.
It’s been seven months since the cheerleaders have been able to cheer together in person, but the group practiced virtually during the lockdown and closure of school facilities.
Coach Natasha Mitchell came up with the idea to coordinate practices through video chats when COVID-19 restrictions shut down their practices. The group got together met online three times a week every week.
“And so they stayed on it, we Zoomed all summer and we didn’t take a break,” Mitchell said.
Practicing virtually came with its challenges.
“We were scared we weren’t going to get enough practices in person because it was going to affect the way we do our football games and competition,” said cheerleader Mario Garcia.
It was hard to find the motivation to keep going as Dallas ISD debated whether or not to allow in-person extracurricular and classes.
“We didn't really know if we were going to games, competitions, or anything,” said cheerleader Frederick James.
But after months of practicing through video chats – it finally paid off. Out of hundreds across the country, four from the sunset team have made the NCA All-American cheerleading team.
“They mentioned my name, I was just like no way, I thought I heard it wrong,” said cheerleader Alexis Rodriguez.
“I feel like it’s a big step because not everybody who makes that team looks like us,” said cheerleader Jourdyn Hawkins. “We want to motivate others. Yes, you can do whatever other schools or other districts can do.”
It’s an honor many of them had hoped for, but still hadn't achieved until now -- in a year when the team went up against unprecedented challenges.
“We’ve sat there and waited for our names to be called and it hadn't,” Mitchell said.
When the team finally does come back together for the first time Monday, in-person practices will look different with masks and face shields. But the determination and passion will still be there.
“Drive for the best. There's always going to be situations, but how you pull from that situation depends on how you believe in yourself and how your coaches and everybody believes in you,” Mitchell said.